I was in Paris at the weekend as a visitor to the Courson flower show. This is one of the biggest French flower shows, with hundreds of nurseries exhibiting. It is held in the grounds of a 17th century chateau.
The show was awash with roses, peonies and many herbaceous perennial flowers. By the plants available, it would appear that English country style is all the rage in France!
As a dried flower enthusiast – lavender in particular – I was looking forward to seeing a lavender nursery and possibly a dried lavender stall.
In my home town of Seaford, we have a French market visit us twice a year, and there is always a stall selling olive oil soap, lavender bags, and some slightly scruffy dried lavender bunches. Lavender has had such a resurgence in this country in the last few years that I imagined France, the home of commercially produced lavender (well this century anyway), to be awash with it!
But no – the French currently seem to disdain lavender the same way the English did fifteen years ago.
Admittedly, the heart of the lavender-growing industry in France is Provence, much further South, so perhaps the Northern French in Paris don’t feel quite as linked to it as we would imagine. Additionally, as lavender grows wild in the South of the country, perhaps they don’t prize it to the same extent.
The lack of lavender plants to buy at the show was surprising. In the UK at any out-of-town garden centre, you will be offered Angustifolia, Intermedia, Stoechas, often an additional tender species, and probably a choice of light or dark purple, white or pink. At this extensive show, I saw two or three plants on sale at the herb stands, and a few tufty Stoechas plants in a display. Full stop!
The lack of lavender plants actually surprised me more than the lack of dried lavender. It was clear that the French were adoring all the blousy cottage garden plants. But what better companion for all the roses and geraniums than a lavender plant? What would a cottage garden be without lavender?
In my meanderings around Paris at the weekend, I couldn’t help thinking what a great sales opportunity for someone. The city was awash with tourists, and who better to buy lavender bags by the armful to take home for friends and family? It seems the only people who don’t realise how popular lavender is are the French.
I went to France with my friend Mercy who also has a blog!